Thomas Perry’s novels of suspense have been celebrated for their “dazzling ingenuity” (The New York Times Book Review) and for writing that is “as sharp as a sushi knife” (Los Angeles Times). By turns horrifying and erotic, Perry’s new thriller takes us on a dangerous cat-and-mouse game that pits two women against each other: a beautiful serial killer and the detective who is determined to stop her.
When the cousin of Los Angeles underworld figure Hugo Poole is found shot to death in his Portland, Oregon, home, police find nothing at the scene of the crime except several long strands of blond hair hinting that a second victim may have been involved. Hotel security tapes from the victim’s last vacation reveal an out-of-focus picture of a young blond woman entering and leaving his room. Could she also be a murder victim?
Portland homicide detective Catherine Hobbes is determined to solve the case and locate the missing blonde, but her feelings, and the investigation, are complicated when Hugo hires private detective Joe Pitt to perform a parallel investigation. As the Joe and Catherine form an uneasy alliance, the murder count rises–and both realize that the pretty young woman in the security tapes is not a victim at all.
As Catherine follows the evidence, she finds herself in a deadly contest with an unpredictable adversary capable of changing her appearance and identity at will. Catherine must use everything she knows, as a homicide detective and as a woman, to stop a murderer who kills on impulse and with ease, and who becomes more efficient and elusive with each crime.
Serial killer Charlene Buckner aka Tanya Starling, Rachel Sturbridge, Nancy Mills, and several other monikers changes her identity each time she commits a murder. By the end of Perry's mesmerizing novel (Pursuit; The Butcher's Boy), Charlene has racked up an impressive body count and her own personal Rolodex of bogus names. Yes, as a child she had a slutty mom, and yes, she was abandoned in her late teens, but her life story is hardly the horror show of most fictional serial killers. Perry patiently shows that it doesn't necessarily take child molestation and brutality to create a murderer. "She was just a regular person who had always wanted what everybody else wanted to be happy." Portland police detective Sgt. Catherine Hobbes investigates Charlene's first kill, Dennis Poole, and follows close behind her, always just a little too late to catch Charlene or save her latest victim, as Charlene moves on to San Francisco, L.A., Las Vegas and other locales, where she pauses just long enough to commit another murder. Hobbes has her own issues, and by the end the two women have grown close not only in proximity but in identity as well. Reinterpreting conventions and confounding readers' expectations with fascinating characters, this is Perry at his best.